DAHLGREN, Va. — How easy is it to hack a pacemaker? Your "FitBit" is designed to track your physical movements. Who else can see it?
These are among the myriad of questions Naval Surface Warfare Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) engineer Brenden McMullen researched for six months as a member of a focus group sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2014.
The questions McMullen and his counterparts analyzed had one common denominator — “wearable and embeddable technology."
They examined surgically implanted items such as pacemakers and telemetry as well as wearable items ranging from physical fitness bands and chips to medical telemetry, including LifeAlert and GoogleGlass.
Like McMullen, scores of federal and private sector experts throughout the country volunteered their spare time to participate in the program — managed by the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis on behalf of the Director of National Intelligence — to identify threats, risks, and vulnerabilities associated with wearable and embeddable technologies.
“What the private sector volunteers contributed was nothing short of genius,” said McMullen. “This was a great way to engage in cutting-edge technology. The government intelligence community volunteers were equally talented, and brought the necessary contexts from their respective organizations.”
The annual initiative — officially known as the Intelligence Community Analyst-Private Sector Partnership Program — facilitates collaborative partnerships between members of the private sector and teams of experienced intelligence community analysts. It provides intelligence community analysts and private sector partners with a better understanding of select national security and homeland security issues.
“I was particularly impressed with the level of expertise and experience in the working groups,” said McMullen, whose active duty positions ranged from Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center dive instructor to Camp David medical officer before he retired as a Navy Senior Chief Special Amphibious Reconnaissance Corpsman. “Programs like this are important to participate in, and a great way to stay abreast with new and emerging science that impacts national security.”
Jennifer Lasley — former Department of Homeland Security, Deputy Undersecretary for Analysis, Office of Intelligence and Analysis — also considers the volunteers’ participation important. In a letter to NSWCDD expressing appreciation for McMullen’s contribution to the program, she stressed that her DHS office and the Director of National Intelligence recognize the critical value of public-private sector partnerships in contributing to the national security mission.
The effort seeks to increase the depth of expertise among the participating analysts but is not intended as a mechanism for operational activities or formal coordination between industries and the intelligence community. It enables the intelligence community and industry partners to gain insight leading to a better understanding of their respective areas of expertise.
McMullen’s military experience in ground warfare and security, and underwater and aviation environments, in addition to his current work as a Navy government civilian in antiterrorism and force protection positively impacted the group’s analytic research and deliverables, according to Lasley.
“This year’s program would not have been a success without Brenden’s active engagement and partnership,” she said. “We were particularly impressed by the diversity of analytic deliverables the teams created, and we will ensure each team's products are widely disseminated to include posting on the DHS Homeland Security Information Network, as well as other information sharing environments.”
McMullen was the only DoD civilian in his group, which included private sector members from Disney, Monsanto, and St. Jude’s Medical. Intelligence community members in the focus group represented the Defense Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, FBI, and DHS.